Love Visions

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Penguin Books Limited, 1983 - Literary Criticism - 261 pages
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Spanning Chaucer's working life, these four poems build on the medieval convention of 'love visions' - poems inspired by dreams, woven into rich allegories about the rituals and emotions of courtly love. In The Book of the Duchess, the most traditional of the four, the dreamer meets a widower who has loved and lost the perfect lady, and The House of Fame describes a dream journey in which the poet meets with classical divinities. Witty, lively and playful, The Parliament of Birds details an encounter with the birds of the world in the Garden of Nature as they seek to meet their mates, while The Legend of Good Women sees Chaucer being censured by the God of Love, and seeking to make amends, for writing poems that depict unfaithful women. Together, the four create a marvellously witty, lively and humane self-portrait of the poet.

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About the author (1983)

Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London, the son of a wine-merchant, in about 1342, and as he spent his life in royal government service his career happens to be unusually well documented. By 1357 Chaucer was a page to the wife of Prince Lionel, second son of Edward III, and it was while in the prince's service that Chaucer was ransomed when captured during the English campaign in France in 1359-60. Chaucer's wife Philippa, whom he married c. 1365, was the sister of Katherine Swynford, the mistress (c. 1370) and third wife (1396) of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, whose first wife Blanche (d. 1368) is commemorated in Chaucer's ealrist major poem, The Book of the Duchess.

From 1374 Chaucer worked as controller of customs on wool in the port of London, but between 1366 and 1378 he made a number of trips abroad on official business, including two trips to Italy in 1372-3 and 1378. The influence of Chaucer's encounter with Italian literature is felt in the poems he wrote in the late 1370's and early 1380s The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls and a version of The Knight's Tale and finds its fullest expression in Troilus and Criseyde.

In 1386 Chaucer was member of parliament for Kent, but in the same year he resigned his customs post, although in 1389 he was appointed Clerk of the King's Works (resigning in 1391). After finishing Troilus and his translation into English prose of Boethius' De consolatione philosophiae, Chaucer started his Legend of Good Women. In the 1390s he worked on his most ambitious project, The Canterbury Tales, which remained unfinished at his death. In 1399 Chaucer leased a house in the precincts of Westminster Abbey but died in 1400 and was buried in the Abbey.

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